El Salvador: La Ruta de las Flores

If you take a look at any of the promotional material produced by the El Salvador tourism officials, the chances are the pictures that you’ll find are going to focus heavily on La Ruta de las Flores. This small stretch of road in the west of the country has been promoted as a tourism showcase and it’s easy to see why. Being close to the Guatemalan border it’s also an attractive first stop in the country for travellers who come into El Salvador from Antigua.

So what does La Ruta de las Flores offer to the visitor?

The route essentially covers a handful of small, attractive colonial towns along around 40km of winding, relatively quiet road. The natural surroundings offer many outdoor activities (hiking, swimming, camping) while local businesses have set up other attractions for visitors, notably quad-biking and cycling options. Here are just a few of the highlights that we found:


Juayua was our first stop on La Ruta de las Flores. Small and formed as a perfect grid, the centre of the town is very easy to negotiate. It boasts an attractive central square in front of a whitewashed church (impressively decked out for Christmas when we arrived). It’s a pleasant place to stroll around, and as with most of this route it is safe to wander the streets even at night. In fact we spent a pleasant half hour after our dinner at around 9pm, watching families with small children playing in the square and taking pictures by the Christmas tree.

Every weekend Juayua hosts a national food festival. Sadly we arrived on a Monday, when not only the festival had gone but most of the restaurants are also closed for the night. We did enjoy a simple meal in a humble pupuseria: more food than we could manage, a beer and a soda, all for under $5.

Juayua’s greatest attraction is a couple of kilometres south of the centre, along a well signposted track. Los Chorros de la Calera are a series of waterfalls that tumble over the old volcanic rocks, forming pools that are perfect for an afternoon dip. We had a great time swimming in these falls, and were able to swim under the waterfall itself which had a sensation similar to that of an extremely powerful shower. We had a group of curious and very friendly local teenagers for company; it’s a place I would have loved to have on my doorstep while growing up.


We took a bus on our second day to visit Ataco. It’s a 30 minute journey from Juayua and the buses run every 10-15 minutes (cost of bus journeys is very cheap in El Salvador – most journeys cost around $0.50).

Ataco is a small town well known for its brightly coloured houses. It looked as though there were a few more tourist-focussed business here than in Juayua, although we didn’t actually spot any tourists. We didn’t stop long here, but did venture towards the only hill in town to an attractive looking church. A further climb would have taken us to a cross on the top of the hill, but the heat of the day made this a less than appealing idea.


We next headed for Apaneca, a sleepy village around halfway back to Juayua. Again the possibility of hopping on and off buses with little or no wait to travel between villages would have had anyone in the UK who has to contend with our rural public transport network green with envy. Efficient, coordinated, drivers who are polite and friendly; proof that it can be done is alive and well in western El Salvador.

We made a stop along the way for a brunch at El Jardin de Celeste, a wonderful cafe that had been recommended to us by a local family. Set in a very attractive garden and surrounded by brilliantly coloured flowers, we enjoyed an excellent traditional breakfast with the sounds of nature for company. Well, that and the chatter of the local business folk who clearly use this spot for a bit of networking.

It’s easy to understand why the Ruta de las Flores is used as the poster child for El Salvador. It has natural beauty, quaint towns and plenty for the visitor to enjoy. But for those who are worried by the region’s promotional efforts and who think that they will come to a place overrun by tourists, you needn’t fear. In most places along the route, you’ll still be the only foreigner in town.

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10 Responses to “El Salvador: La Ruta de las Flores”

  1. Were there a lot of possibilities for like tours or so in Juayua?
    When I was there, I had read that there was a tourist office and that there would be horse riding and other touristy things, but I did not see any of that.
    Like you we arrived after a weekend and we appeared to be the only tourists there.

    January 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm
  2. Nice shots of the town. There’s a certain attractiveness to places that are rural and remote and you’re the only one there; as if time stopped and this town hasn’t caught the 21st-century bug.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm
  3. leonel #

    Ataco is a very nice place, you can try one of the best coffee’s in El Salvador at The House of Coffee.

    Astonishing place!!!!!

    January 29, 2011 at 12:34 am
  4. Man I really wanted to do this route when I was in Central America, but I chose Honduras over El Salvador (wrong choice). I love pueblos, will have to go back to CA and visit.

    January 29, 2011 at 3:40 am
  5. Love the waterfall. Am a big fan of combining a nice cool swim with adventure travel.

    January 29, 2011 at 7:22 am
  6. Thanks to all for the comments. Nicolas, I didn’t find an official tourist office in Juayua, although the two guest houses in town seemed to provide more information than the average information centre, and were happy to arrange any activities.
    Had more than my fair share of Salvadorian coffee Lionel – always a good start to our mornings.

    January 31, 2011 at 8:07 am
  7. carmecu #

    nicolas.. look it this site…. Is for Juayua and Ataco .http://www.elsalvador.travel/en/portezuelo-park/

    June 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm
  8. Wow, I really liked the way you described our country! I know that it may not be perfect but is what we have and we love it. I hope you can come back to El Salvador soon, and visit one of the most beautiful places in the western part of the country. The place is call “Entre Nubes” (Between Clouds), is a complete different concept of restaurant that put the customer inside a forest of flowers! and the coffee is the best in La Ruta de las Flores. http://www.elsalvador.travel/entre-nubes-vivero-cafe/ There you can have more pictures of the place or you can visit the website. Take care and continue with the amazing job you do.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:25 am
  9. Thanks Daniel – I hope I can return one day and in the meantime I hope others will choose to visit your beautiful country. Your cafe looks very special!

    July 6, 2011 at 7:43 am
  10. Emily #

    Great account and helpful with trying to plan next week. Do you know if the food fair is on both Saturday and Sunday? We are heading from Flores Guatemala and hope that the bus stops at Santa Elena on the Saturday so we can jump off!
    Thanks again

    February 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm